The Candid Cal Crutchlow Interview, Part 3 - On Having Jack Miller As A Teammate, And Mental Strength

It has been a very tough year for Cal Crutchlow. Coming off the high of 2013, the year in which he scored four podiums, finished fifth in the championship, and looked certain to score his first win in MotoGP, his season in Ducati has been a massive challenge. Technical malfunctions, crashes, and a battle to find a way around the chronic understeer which plagues the Desmosedici. Crutchlow lingers in the middle of the pack, not fighting at the sharp end. This was not the season which Crutchlow had envisaged when he signed for Ducati.

In the first part of the interview with Crutchlow, published on Monday, he spoke of his battle to adapt to the Ducati, and of the 2014 season being his toughest year so far. In the second part of the interview, he continued this theme, talking about his struggle to maintain his morale through this, the hardest part of his career, when the results refuse to come. And in this, the final part of the interview, he talks about how mental strength is the decisive factor in motorcycle racing, and discusses Jack Miller's ascent to MotoGP.

MM: What about Jack Miller as a teammate? It's quite a big step from Moto3 to MotoGP, and he is definitely a larrikin, as they say in Australia …

CC: I don't know, a few races ago, when they first talked about it, I was like, why not do it? It's the best thing ever, it'll be funny. But the more I think about it, the more I think, maybe he needed a year. But who am I to say? I don't know! He might be alright. I sat there and thought, maybe he needed a year to go into Moto2 and learn, but then you think, why doesn't he have his year learning in MotoGP? It makes no difference. It's a big decision to make.

I do have to say, everyone's saying about the power, from 55bhp or whatever they've got to 250 or whatever. I don't think it's a big thing. You've got your right wrist, if you want to open the gas, you can open it, if you don't, then don't open it. If you don't want the power, you don't open the throttle. I think he'll be fine with that.

The only thing that I believe that could be a hindrance to him, you can't have as much fun on a MotoGP bike as you can in Moto3. I'll tell you what, you're not riding around behind someone, waiting for them to make a move, or thinking, I'll pass on the next lap. You've got no chance of doing that. You know, these races are probably 50% more intense than his races. That's my opinion.

Don't get me wrong, if I went into Moto3, I'd not say I'd go and win, it's a really difficult championship. I just mean, there's no summing a guy up, and waiting eighth in a group and thinking, right, I'll just pick these off, or I can pass three at this corner, or whatever. It ain't gonna happen like that. But, he's got a year to learn all that. And the second year he might get a little bit better, and the third year, a bit better again.

So yes, it's going to be funny, I think the morale in the team will be great, that's always good fun. We had a great year last year with Brad [Bradley Smith] and the team, and I think, in a way, Brad misses that in Tech 3, because he's got the rivalry thing going on, the same as what me and Andrea sort of have here. Not that, as a rival, obviously he's nowhere near me, he's thirty seconds ahead of me every race. So I think when you make it as a good team, and relaxed, I think you have good results from both riders.

And it's funny, I spoke to Brad today, and I said to him, he's got to relax. That's easy coming from me, it's no good coming from me at the minute, because it's like me contradicting myself, but I remember Brad last year, at the end of last year, was so competitive, because he was not the number one in the team, he was treated exactly the same, but he wasn't expected to get the results, so he didn't care. After he crashed in Mugello last year and hurt himself a couple of times, he learned immediately how to ride the bike. And at the end of the year, he was pushing me at the start of a few races. But he had the confidence to do it, where now, all he's interested in is beating Pol [Espargaro, Smith's Tech 3 teammate and former Moto2 rival]. And I said to him, enjoy it, go back to riding it the way you were at the end of last year, and it'll come back so fast, he will be competitive so fast...

MM: Interesting. We've basically been talking about the mental side of racing so far. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote something about Moto2 and Moto3 riders, where it seems to me at this level, talent differences are small, you're all just fantastic riders. The big difference is between the ears. How important is the mental side of racing at this level?

CC: I believe that Valentino winning in Misano last week was because he'd put a session together early on in the weekend, FP3 or FP4, that was stronger than anyone else, and he had the mental attitude to win. He was going to win whether Marc was on the bike or not, I believe. And this shows how strong he is, because in Silverstone, he was nine seconds behind. And nine seconds is, I'm not saying a big gap, but it's big enough. And he went suddenly one week to being able to win again, because he had a great session.

It's a lot to do with the mental side. Marc [Marquez] I believe is mentally stronger than anyone else. Because he enjoys it more. And, it'll be funny to see how he bounces back this weekend, but I believe he will be able to be competitive and win. Because he doesn't let anything faze him. It's just the way, it's about the way the weekend starts, it's about how … you could also see in Misano that Marc wasn't as strong as the other guys, so that's why I say it'll be interesting, but he is mentally stronger because he enjoys it a lot more.

MM: Can you learn mental strength?

CC: I don't know. I believe you can, yes, because I believe in certain situations, I'm too weak. But I believe that in other situations, I believe that nobody can beat me. So I do believe you can, but I think you have to find it yourself, not go to someone else to find it. I'm not saying, if you want it enough, because everyone wants it, everybody wants it. But I believe that everyone is mentally strong, or else they wouldn't even be here at all, it's just you've got to do it yourself. You have to find from within yourself.

But it's funny how you can gain and lose it so fast. I really believe that. But when you're on a roll, it never stops. It's like you're just riding the crest of the wave, and you just keep going and going and going. But when you're down, you're f****d. But that's why I say, if you have a good session, a good ride, it comes back. And then, you're already mentally stronger, you think, I can be that guy, or I can do this or I can do that. Yes, it's a strange one. It is a strange one.

If you would like to read the previous two parts of this interview - and I highly recommend that you do, as they are both fascinating - you can read the first part of the interview here, and the second part of the interview here.

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An excellent article, I like his attitude and his honest open attitude to questions. You may like or not the guy but there's no mucking around with him. He makes for interesting reading.

All of this wouldn't be possible without the great skills of David. Your interviews have always compelling stories and new points of view, except for few exceptions (where you are not the one to blame).

Thank you David and good luck Cal!

For Crutchlow 2011 wasn't great, 2014 is a disaster but 2015 will be the most important year in his life. Thus far he has had reasons even for his adversaries and naysayers to not write him off completely. In 2015 he gets a factory Honda, which arguably seems to be the toast of the field, and if he has a year which is half as bad as 2011 was, he will get written off completely. He can ride a MotoGP bike, that I am convinced of. What needs to be seen is, can he put the Ducati experience behind him and get on with the Honda, or will he say, I was learning to ride like Marquez because he is the fastest on a he said that he was developing a Lorenzo like style to extract the maximum out of the Yamaha. Honda are known to be less charitable and pretty unforgiving if the riders do not perform well and will not tolerate comments about their motorcycles. 2015 will see how strong Cal Crutchlow will be mentally and probably it will be the year which will make or break his MotoGP career.

I do think 2015 will likely determine the overall trajectory of Cal's career, but I think he has the talent to remain on the grid for a while. It just remains to be seen whether we'll be mentioning him along with the Aliens or if he'll be lumped in with the likes of Barberá and Aoyama.

Oddly, I think that despite having left the factory team, Cal's fate may still be influenced by Ducati. If the GP15 finally puts Ducati back in the mix with Honda and Yamaha, it will take a lot of pressure off of Cal. With six riders battling at the front, I imagine Cal should be able to hang on to a satellite ride as long as he makes somewhat regular appearances in the top eight and avoids finishing out of the points.

Next year is not going to 'make or break' cal crutchlow. Cal's entering a stage where a lot of riders are starting to think about what to do after racing - Rossi being the major exception of course. Cal is just happy to get off that red thing and onto something rideable.

Cal is likely to run in the 5-10 group all next year. And this is not going to make, or break him. But he'll do just fine anyway. I look forward to seeing a happier, sparkier Cal next year. As he is not running up the front you don't hear as much from him and I miss his frank talk. Every spanish rider debriefs the media like a well trained robot. It is always so nice to hear from from Rossi, especially when he says F--- to reporters :)